Last Updated on 05/08/2019 by Mark Beckenbach
Give your studio portraits the timeless, painterly look with custom hand-painted backdrops from Gravity Backdrops.
Any photographer who has spent time in a studio has undoubtedly photographed their subject in front of seamless paper and possibly even a cyclorama. When we look at some of the most iconic portraits throughout history (like those captured by contemporary greats like Annie Leibovitz and Mark Seliger or late legends like Irving Penn), you will often find that the subject(s) are placed in front of hand-painted canvas backdrops. Those backdrops lend a timeless, painterly look to the images. In fact, the backdrop Penn used in many of his portraits was prominently displayed at his namesake centennial exhibit held at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2017. For a long time, these hand-painted backdrops were quite prohibitively priced, out of reach for most photographers. They are so costly that there are rental houses that specialize in renting them out for photo shoots and other productions, but even the rental fees could add up to quite a large sum of money. This is where Europe based backdrop studio Gravity Backdrops comes in, effectively disrupting the existing backdrop business model by offering hand-painted backdrops that match the quality of those available from storied backdrop studios but at a fraction of the cost. In fact, some of the backdrops from Gravity actually costs less to own than it would cost to rent similar backdrops from a rental house.
Pros and Cons
- Each backdrop is uniquely hand painted on durable canvas; no two backdrops are identical
- Lends a classic painterly background to your images, reminiscent of famous portraits seen on covers and within pages of high-end fashion periodicals and entertainment magazines
- Much more durable than seamless paper
- Given their size, you’re pretty much limited to using these backdrops exclusively in studio environments unless you’ve got a few assistants with you to haul them, C Stands, and sandbags to a location. Seriously though, why are you even using a backdrop if you’re shooting outdoors?
” In fact, some of the backdrops from Gravity actually costs less to own than it would cost to rent similar backdrops from a rental house.”
We tested the Gravity Backdrops with the following equipment:
- Sony A7RIII
- Sigma Art 35mm f1.4 DG HSM (Sony FE)
- Sigma Art 50mm f1.4 DG HSM (Sony FE)
- Sigma Art 85mm f1.4 DG HSM (Sony FE)
- Sigma Art 105mm f1.4 DG HSM (Sony FE)
- Sigma Art 135mm f1.8 DG HSM (Sony FE)
- Sony 90mm f2.8 Macro G OSS
- Profoto B10
- Flashpoint XPLOR 600 Pro
- a variety of light modifiers and studio equipment
Gravity Backdrops come in six different sizes and are available in a variety of colors and textures, and are either single or double sided.
|Backdrop Size||Dimensions||Price (Single Sided)||Price (Double Sided)|
|XS||1.2m × 2.4m (3.9′ x 7.8′)||€ 250||€ 375|
|Standard||1.6m × 2.5m (5.2′ × 8.2′)||€ 300||€ 450|
|Mid||1.9m × 2.8m (6.2′ × 9.2′)||€ 350||€ 500|
|Large||2.1m × 2.8m (6.9′ × 9.2′)||€ 400||€ 600|
|Large+||2.8m × 3m (9.2′ × 9.8′)||€ 600||€ 850|
|Extra Large||2.8m × 4m (9.2′ × 13′)||€ 800||€ 1,000|
Gravity Backdrops also offers a number of packages consisting of multiple backdrops at discounted prices.
When you order a backdrop from Gravity Backdrops, it will arrive in a cardboard tube. Simply remove the backdrop from the shipping tube, attach it to a backdrop stand or a couple of C Stands, and you’re ready to start shooting. These aren’t a canvas or a muslin; they’re a cloth with paint on it. If you were to imagine a painter’s drop cloth in some ways, you’d get the Gravity Backdrops. At the same time, it’s a very thick drop cloth, and higher grade.
All of the backdrops from Gravity are custom hand painted on canvas, are significantly more durable, and can withstand more abuse when compared to seamless paper. We’ve placed stools and apple boxes on top of the backdrops while using them on set and even had models walk onto them with heels or boots on; not once did the canvases rip or tear. The unique hand-painted texture also did a great job of masking any scuffs or scratches that resulted from being walked on or things being moved on top of the canvas. To be perfectly honest, this actually added more character to the backdrops.
Ease of Use
If you’ve ever unrolled seamless paper or a spool of fabric, the process of setting up a backdrop from Gravity is pretty much the same. Simply attach the backdrop onto either C Stands or a backdrop stand using some A Clamps, tape down the end of the backdrop that comes into contact with the floor, and the backdrop is ready to be used. Since the backdrop canvases are painted, they are understandably less pliable than regular canvases, but are still easily rollable. The only real challenge with these backdrops (or any other backdrop of similar size) is transporting them to different locations. Any photographer that doesn’t have their own studio space will want to take this into consideration.
Here are some studio portraits that we shot in front of Gravity Backdrops. As a matter of ethics, none of the sample images seen within this review have been retouched so that you can judge everything for yourself.
- Unique painterly quality give your images a timeless look
- Hard to transport
If you’ve ever lusted after one of the hand-painted backdrops seen in the background of countless magazine covers and editorials, but were deterred by the traditionally prohibitive prices associated with them, Gravity Backdrops is the solution for you. At roughly the same price it costs to rent one of these backdrops, you can purchase a custom hand-painted backdrop of your very own from Gravity Backdrops. Obviously, seamless paper will still be more affordable, but when it comes to durability and uniqueness, these custom hand-painted canvas backdrops from Gravity Backdrops offer tremendous value and are a worthy investment for any serious studio photographer.
The Gravity Backdrops earn Five out of Five Stars, earning it The Phoblographer’s Editor’s Choice Award. Head on over to the Gravity Backdrops website to purchase one for yourself.